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Meanwhile (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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A girls' football team is the focus of this humorous and reflective play set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

In 1976 the Labour government decided it would no longer treat the war in Northern Ireland as a political problem, but a security problem. With that decision Republican prisoners were turned from political prisoners to criminal ones. In 1981, Bobby Sands led a hunger strike to protest against the changes.

Against this backdrop, writer Colin Connor introduces an all female football team the ‘Dalebrook torpedoes' who are due to play local champions the ‘Bad Boys' on St Patrick's Day. As Bobby Sands nears the end of his life, the girls are getting ready for the most important match of theirs.

Connor introduces each of them from the youngest, alter girl Orla (Christine Clare) to the constantly swearing Dervla (Hannah Ellis) by giving us glimpses into their homes, their church and their everyday lives.

Originally Connor had intended to make it an all boys team, but his decision to switch to all girls was an excellent one. There are some really strong female characters and some really funny lines. It is also a great vehicle for the very talented actresses who make up the majority of the cast.

The Tornadoes' preparation for the St Patrick's Day match against the ‘Bad boys' is interspersed by monologues from Richard Patterson as Bobby Sands.

At times the length of the monologues detracts from the main action, but they are powerful reminders of the hunger strike. Even in the scenes with the girls the political situation is never far away, from discussing who the best goalkeeper is with a soldier, to almost getting caught in the crossfire between the two sides.

Meanwhile ends with the game itself. Brilliantly commentated on by Amy Gavin's Dobby, it is performed in slow motion and is a comic end to a play which is generally upbeat despite its subject matter.

- Joanna Ing


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